Is it possible that for a golf course ranked in Australia’s Top-10 and still be underrated? Victoria Golf Course may have been, but after praise from the world’s number one golfer, it won’t be any more.
Very few courses in the Melbourne sandbelt region could be deemed underrated, but I can’t help but feel that in the wider golfing community, Victoria Golf Club has been so. It is nearly always ranked in Australia’s Top-10 golf courses but it has often sat in the shadows of the more highly ranked sand belt golf courses that lie only a few kilometres away.
Thankfully, Victoria is getting international praise after hosting the last two JBWere Australian Masters. The world’s number one golfer Luke Donald for example, ranked the golf course very highly.
“I did enjoy it here and I am sure I will be back,” Luke Donald said. “I probably put this in my top 10 courses, architecturally and from a design stand point.”
Geoff Ogilvy and Peter Thomson call Victoria Golf Club home, and I was lucky enough to get a chance to play Victoria as a guest of the club, just a week after Ian Poulter claimed victory at the 2012 Australian Masters.
Victoria Golf Club opened in its current location in 1927 and recent research suggests that the great Dr. Alistair Mackenzie had a much greater role in the layout and bunkering of the course than originally thought.
I couldn’t wait to see the layout and bunkering so often praised at Victoria, but my first impressions were dominated be seeing how quickly the course had transformed from tournament host, back to a suburban members golf course. It was remarkable to see the course devoid of grandstands and souvenir tents.
Only five days before the place was overrun with spectators, but today there was only remnants of leaderboard scaffolding, my playing partner Doogs from On Par, and a few playing members to witness my assault on the course.
The first hole is fast becoming one of the most well known holes in Australian golf and it is as interesting as it appears on TV. For all intents and purposes the short, 233 metre par-4 looks like it should be a first up birdie, or at least a makeable par.
But to throw caution to the wind would be dangerous, and I’d venture to say that most amateurs probably aren’t warmed up enough to take full advantage of the opening hole. Even a conservative iron to the right side of the fairway requires some concentration. It is a classic hole that would produce as many double-bogies as it would birdies.
The first of the very challenging par-3’s at Victoria arrives at the fourth. All of the par-3’s are between 140 and 180 metres and require some real thought from the tee.
The bunkering around the greens loom ominous and, sensibly playing for the middle of the green may leave you deep in three-putt territory. It makes you appreciate how good the professionals are when it’s difficult to see how to get close to some holes after three shots.
Short par 4’s are fast becoming the most talked about aspect of modern golf course architecture, Victoria Golf Club has a couple of rippers. Obviously the first hole is superb but the 10th (top photo) which opens the back nine is also a beauty. Positioning is key from the tee to attack a really difficult raised green.
The 15th is one of Australia’s best golf holes. At a mere 289 metres in length, this hole should not be underestimated. Take it on from the tee if you dare but don’t whinge when your ‘certain birdie’ turns into a double bogey.
Both nine’s at Victoria finish with two par-5’s. The eighth isn’t overly long but you need to be very straight. A long drive on the ninth to a huge swale can leave you with a blind second shot that needs some power and accuracy to get close to the green.
Many will recall the 17th and 18th holes from the coverage of the Australian Masters. The water that Geoff Ogilvy found on the right of the 17th is much easier to find when playing off the back tees. But many amateurs will over-compensate and end up in the bunker on the left of the fairway (me included) where it is a struggle to make par from.
The final hole isn’t overly long but the green slopes from front to back. It’s tough to stop the ball with a wedge and a bump-and-run shot requires some skill. It can easily run all the way through the massive green leaving you with a few tough putts to get into the clubhouse with a smile on your face.
Victoria Golf Club is a place Australian golf can be proud of. It’s a tricky golf course but one that every Australian golfer will fall in love with. And for what it’s worth, it ranks highly in my top-10 courses too. But if you prefer the recommendation from the world’s number one golfer, then I’m reluctantly fine with that.